"Page 147," I said.
"Out of..." his voice trailed off. He thumbed to the back. "401. That means you're in the front half."
According to my husband, the placement of a story indicates its value. The weaker stories are towards the collection's end. The stronger stories they put first. No matter how many times I talk about theme and the juried process the editors put the stories through, he continues with his screwed-up thinking... which makes me think about what other people think about writers.
1. "You don't have a book published? (Then, you're not really a writer, are you.)" James Patterson has beaucoup books on bookstores shelves, and all he does is outline the plot. Other (unnamed) people write the books. I'm not sure that means he is really a writer.
On the other hand, I know many people who write every day, submit to many different markets, and their pieces are published all over the place--just not in a book. And I know many folks who write almost every day, and haven't got published... yet. They're all writers, from my perspective.
They do the hard work on a regular basis.
2. "It's easy to write. (You just sit on your butt and tap away at your computer, right?)" Much to the surprise of people who don't write, the words don't come flowing out the right way the first time. (Except for Cynthia Rylant, the who in an interview spoke about her revising process saying, "I don't really have to revise. It comes out right the first time. I'm guess I'm just lucky that way." Some day I'm gonna slash Rylant's tires...)
Writing is more slashing and burning than it is lining up the lines and the paragraphs and the pages like a battalion of soldiers. If everyone knew how many words we delete, compared to how many we keep, they'd be amazed... and perhaps a bit more respectful of the craft.
3. "You're so lucky. You get to make your own schedule. (You get to watch lots of TV and lay around on the couch. I'd love to be able to live that life.)" I know some full-time writers. Cathy C. Hall. Sue Bradford Edwards. Lisa Ricard Claro. Sean McLachlan. I know some people who retired from other jobs and now freelance. Linda O'Connell. Pat Wahler. I know people like me who work other jobs and fit writing (sometimes not very well) into their lives.
Unfortunately, we usually don't get to make our own schedule. Vegging out on the couch and watching movies isn't something we can do every day. Being a writer might mean squeezing it in, 15-minute increments at a time. It might mean waking up an hour earlier than necessary every morning to have some uninterrupted time to write.
It also might mean we'd prefer to be working on a manuscript, but a deadline for something else takes precedence.
How about you? As a writer, what can you add?
Sioux Roslawski doesn't have a book on a bookstore shelf with only her name on the spine but nevertheless, she considers herself a writer. Most of the time, she's teaching middle-schoolers how to free themselves enough to write honestly and most of the time (99% of the time) she loves her job and revels in the strong student voices that surround her. Currently she's working on polishing up a historical manuscript for middle grades (she's polishing it until it's nice and shiny); if you'd like to read more of her stuff, check out her blog.
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